Thursday, July 30, 2009

Twin Falls Beat Jays

(Kellen Jones)

The Trail Jays lost 9-6 to Twin Falls this evening at the Idaho State AA American Legion Baseball double elimination tournament. Kellen Jones got tagged with the loss. Trail now moves to the loser's bracket and will play a do or die game against Treasure Valley tomorrow at 4pm. Cam Strachan is the probable starter for Trail. They need a strong effort from their #3. Treasure Valley and Trail are both top seeds from their region, but they both lost in the second round. Both are now on loss away from the end of their seasons. Tune in to Mountain FM news tomorrow for more details.

Merritt Sale Falls Apart: Grisdale

Rumour spread this morning that the sale of the Merritt Centennials to Brent Stark and a group from Whitecourt, Alberta has fallen apart. Stark owns the Junior B team in Whitecourt and new Cents Coach and GM Joey Bouchard was his coach. I reported on this blog on June 25th that there was officially an application to buy the team. It was widely assumed Stark's approval as the new owner was merely a formality. Now that he has walked away from the deal the re-organized Merritt society is left holding the bag. What does that mean for the future of Merritt hockey? Here's BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale:

John Grisdale on Merritt Sale

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Grisdale plays it cool and positive, but you have to think some of the investments made in the Merritt society this spring were made under the assumption that the private ownership was coming. How long can they hold things together? Is there another white knight on the way? Keep an eye on Brian's Making Cents blog as I'm sure he'll have an update soon.

A really promising situation in Merritt just took a huge hit... and so far we don't know why.

EDIT: Here's Brian's update with Cents Governor and Director of Hockey Operations Brian Barrett. Sounds like this was an absolutely last second move by the Stark group.

EDIT: Think there's a lack of interest in the Cents or the BCHL? Yesterday was the biggest day in my blog's history. I've never had more traffic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trail Jays Win Opener

(Connor Jones)

Connor Jones went 8 1/3 innings today to get the win as Trail beat the Boise Centennial Cannons 11-5 in the opening game of the Idaho AA American Legion Baseball State Tournament. Brady Glover had 2 hits and 3 RBIs in the game for the Jays. Trail got up 10-0 but couldn't hold Boise off the board to secure an early mercy rule win. Kellen Jones gets the start tomorrow in their second round game. The tournament is double elimination. Pitching Cocah Collin Gibbs joins me on Mountain FM's Overtime tonight. The West Kootenay Diamondbacks head to the U16 Washington State Tournament on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bennett to Trail, Jays Earn Top Seed

(Wade Bennett with the LA Jr Kings)

The Trail Smoke Eaters have added another piece to their back end as we move towards what should be another excellent competition for blue line spots at training camp. Los Angeles native Wade Bennett has agreed to join the Smokies for next season. Wade is the older brother of Beau Bennett of the Penticton Vees. Ryan Pinder had the scoop on that signing a little while back. The Bennett brothers were both recruited by the USHL and instead decided the BCHL was the right path for them. It doesn't always go in the other direction!

I met Wade and his father at the Smokies alumni banquet. I got a terrific first impression from them and suspect this is a hockey family that does things the right way. Wade seems really excited to be coming to a hockey hot bed like Trail so he can take his game to the next level. After recently switching from forward to defence he had 5 goald and 11 assists in 77 AAA Midget games for the LA Junior Kings. The 1990 born D is listed as 5'9 and 168lbs but has likely put on some weight since then. Here are my interviews with Wade and with Jim Ingram on the subject...

Wade Bennett

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Jim Ingram on Bennett

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As you can tell from the interview Jim was really impressed by Wade's ability with the puck. I know he saw him in a tournament in early 08 and I believe Wade went to Vernon's training camp this past season. Here's hoping Wade can come in and help replace what Trail has lost on the blue line. As I've said before there are a number of interesting players coming to camp that we haven't announced on the blog yet. We know so far that Steve Kosehey, Graeme Strukoff, Brett Naka and Wade Bennett will be a part of the picture. That's two puck movers and two freight trains. There are several more that I know of who should make things really interesting come late August.

I think we could have another situation where there are up to 10 guys who could play in the league that the team will have to pick from. Of course a lot of fans still believe the team needs to make a move for at least another veteran on the back end. There's still lots of time before training camp, and often those kinds of moves don't get made until early in the season. The team is coming together well and I only heard positive comments about what Jim is doing when I was talking with some people at the BC Hockey Hall of Fame Summer Classic this past weekend.

Speaking of the Summer Classic that was a heck of a good time. Thanks to Ryan Pinder and all the people in Penticton for allowing me to take part. It was a unique broadcast where we had the chance to do some live interviews on the bench during the game. Nothing quite like having Pat Quinn staring down at you from the bench and telling you the other team's goal was your fault because you distracted him... obvious joke or not I can see how that man can get your attention!

Dany Heatley also made an appearance and showed off his ridiculous release. I think that was his first public event and first public comments this summer. Of course all he talked about was the game and the charity. As tempting as it was to ask him about the trade request stuff on our broadcast we knew he was there for a charity (Penticton Minor Hockey) and that had to be respected. As much as anyone can say about him he could have easily stayed home (he was a last minute addition), but instead gave his time to raise money for a good cause. I still think he should make some kind of a statement soon.

There were some big names there and they all did it to raise money and put attention on minor hockey. I was glad to be a part of that.


In American Legion Baseball, the Trail Jays advanced to the Idaho State Tournament. It was kind of a complicated story to be honest. The Jays beat Cranbrook and Lewis-Clark to start the double elimination North Idaho District Playoffs. The wins put Trail into the finals of the tournament and when Lewis-Clark made it through the loser bracket to get to finals as well it guaranteed Trail the top seed from their region. Lewis-Clark is hosting the State Tournament so they had a special "host" seed and as such it didn't matter who won the district. Since it didn't technically matter both sides agreed to just play one game for the championship. Trail lost that game 12-11 but didn't use their top pitchers when they had a lead late in the game. Normally they would've been due a second game because it was double elimination and they hadn't lost. It seems strange to me that winning your district isn't really significant. However, the State Tournament starts tomorrow and so the Jays wanted to make sure their top arms were rested.

For you BCHL and Vernon fans who have been following the blog for updates... Kellen Jones got the win in Saturday's game over Lewis-Clark and Connor Jones picked up the save. Jays Manager Nick Schuerman says he'll be counting on the twins for big innings if they have any shot of winning State. We'll keep you up to date on what has been Trail's best showing at this level in years. To think only 6 years ago the team was actually on a one year hiatus.

EDIT: Just wanted to add a list of the Jays awards winners for this season from their banquet last night.
  • MVP: Connor and Kellen Jones
  • Top Pitcher: Connor and Kellen Jones
  • Top Hitter: Connor and Kellen Jones
  • Defensive Award: Matt Larmour
  • Most Improved: Jeff Sidey
  • Coach's Award: Ethan Green

Friday, July 24, 2009

Life and Death

(The 1939 Trail Smoke Eaters)

First I want to wish both former Smokies Grant Rollheiser and Kevin Limbert a Happy Birthday today. It's hard to imagine two better examples of what a Smoke Eater can achieve than the Maple Leaf draft pick who won a national championship with BU last year and the former Captain who is making a big impact at Yale. I join all Smokies fans in wishing them both the best in the upcomming year.

With milestones in life we also talk of milestones in death... the celebration of the life of a member of the 1939 World Champion Senior Smokies. Click here for the article on Jimmy Haight from the Trail Rossland News. You should also pick up yesterday's Trail Times for a nice piece on Haight. The celebration of Jimmy's life will be held tomorrow at 12:30pm at the Cominco Gym. I wish I could be there. Instead I'll be part of the broadcast team for a big charity game happening in Penticton. Get more details over at Ryan Pinder's Vees Blog. It's a heck of a line-up (including former Smoke Eaters Coach Tom Renney) and any local hockey fan should seriously consider making a day of attending Jimmy's celebration then jumping in the car and and heading to Penticton for this game. Who said hockey season was over?


The Trail Jays won the first game of the North Idaho American Legion Baseball district playoffs yesterday. Connor Jones got the win as the Jays beat Cranbrook 11-5. The win guarantees Trail a spot in the state tournament. Stay tuned to Mountain FM for more updates on the Jays and other local ball.

I promised news of a new Smoke Eater and I intend to get to that later today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Corcoran to St. Scholastica, Kellen's No Hitter

I want to congratulate four year Smoke Eater Brett Corcoran on his recent commitment to St. Scholastica. Corcoran scored 77 goals and had 77 assists over his BCHL career. He spent 3 years with Trail before asking to play close to home for his final season. As a result he got dealt to Cowichan and eventually Surrey, but Corcs never felt at home until he was returned to the Smokies at the trade deadline. Brett finished his BCHL career where he belonged... in the orange and black. I'm really glad to hear that he's getting a lot of his education paid for as a result of all his hard work and dedication. I'm sure he'll be a big part of the Saints roster. Congrats Brett!

Here's an interview I did with Corcoran on Mountain FM's Overtime:

Corcoran on going to St. Scholastica

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You knew Connor Jones and Kellen Jones were excellent hockey players. The Montrose natives proved it by being Vernon's best players as they won the Royal Bank Cup this past season. Did you also know that they were top tier baseball players? If they didn't get hockey scholarships to Quinnipiac they could just as easily get them to play ball. Just to give you an idea, Kellen threw a no hitter on Friday against Coeur D'Alene in North Idaho American Legion Baseball action. His team needed the win to secure second place and Kellen deliverd under huge pressure. Connor was the catcher and scored the winning run of the game in extra innings. Kellen is the Trail Jays team leader in wins (tied with Connor), ERA, batting average and home runs. Connor is the spark plug of the offence and has almost identical pitching numbers. They are the key cogs for a team that Coeur D'Alene's manager called the best in their league. Check out the team stats here.

Connor, Kellen and the Jays start their district playoffs tomorrow. If they beat Cranbrook in their opener they'll guarantee themselves a spot in the state tournament. It's their final season with the Jays and their last chance to bring a state title back home to the Kootenays. Smokies fans don't usually cheer for the Jones Twins but I'm sure they'll be rooting for them, Manager Nick Schuerman, President Ed Ferraro (Ray's brother) and the whole Jays roster as they try and win one for Trail.

If you want to follow the Jays on their run to state keep it locked to Mountain FM. We also had announced another Smokies commitment on Mountain FM's sports casts and Overtime today. We'll have that scoop for you tomorrow as the Smoke Eaters have gone California dreaming again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Smokies Exhibition Tournament

The Trail Smoke Eaters announced today that they're hosting an exhibition tournament on August 28th, 29th and 30th featuring the Smokies, the Penticton Vees, the Powell River Kings and the Brooks Bandits. BCHL fans should be familiar with the three clubs from this league while Brooks will bring AJHL competition into the Cominco Arena.

Each team will play each other once over the span of the three days. The tournament will allow the teams to evaluate their rosters before the regular season, but it will also serve as an opportunity to showcase their young talent to college and pro scouts. The organizations involved are using their contacts to make sure as many scouts as possible get to Trail for this three day event. I talked to Jim Ingram about it today on Mountain FM's Overtime...

Jim Ingram on the tournament

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Banquet Brings House Down

What a night it was on Friday for the Home of Champions Hockey Alumni Banquet in Trail. Nearly 200 people helped contribute to the ALS Society in the name of the late Gene Lenardon and to the BCHL hockey club. Last year the banquet was the single biggest ALS fundraiser in BC. Norm Lenardon deserves a ton of credit for making that happen. As does Smokies President Tom Garwyletz and the whole executive.

Of course most of the credit for how fun the night was goes to the guest speakers. From insightful commentary to hilarious stories from the road we got it all from Tom McVie, Ray Ferraro, Cesare Maniago and Bobby Kromm. McVie calls himself the Rodney Dangerfield of hockey and there's no question in my mind he could have made a career for himself as a comedian. He tore the house down. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak don't miss out. It's amazing to me that all four of the men on stage had a connection to Trail and three of them were actually born here. The class and talent on that head table was incredible. If we had more time for the question and answer it could have gone on for an entire evening.

Thanks to the Smokies for allowing me to be a part of it as MC. I had a great time. I also think it's important to remember those who suffer from ALS. We may have spent one night talking about it and raising money for it, but those who suffer from it have to live with it 365 days a year. Learn more by checking out the ALS society's website.

We also heard our guests talk about how important the BCHL Smokies are to the community. I hope the fans don't forget that with season tickets now available. Support the hockey club to make sure they can continue to provide the best quality hockey action in all of the West Kootenay.

Here are some audio highlights of the banquet on Friday. Unfortunately my recording of Bobby Kromm and the Q&A didn't really turn out, but here are some of the highlights of the other speeches. After attending the last three of these events I can say that you're absolutely crazy if you miss out next year!

Audio Highlights from the Home of Champions Banquet

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...Some major coaching changes recently in the BCHL. First of all the Westside Warriors have their man. They hired Darren Yopyk as their new Head Coach to replace the departing Mark Howell who will be the new bench boss for the University of Calgary. Yopyk has a masters in psychology and spent the last six years coaching as an assistant for two different US schools. He's a former AJHL player and spent four years playing for Princeton. Sounds like a man who has earned an opportunity to run his own ship.

As for Howell, a story from Kelowna Rockets broadcaster Regan Bartel on AM 1150 out of Kelowna suggested he may have been black listed by WHL teams. Howell wouldn't say he was black listed but did admit there's friction with WHL teams because of players going back and fourth. He also says it's probably easier for him to go from coaching Canadian University to the WHL. That seems a little ridiculous to me. Haven't we seen a lot of coaches go from the CJHL to the CHL? Mark Holick for example just recently went from Vernon to Cranbrook. Nelson's Bruno Campese is another somewhat recent example. If a coach does a good job somewhere I can't imagine CHL teams will hold a grudge if they think that person is the right man for their opening.

...The Salmon Arm Silverbacks also made some changes to their hockey operations. Rylan Ferster is moving upstairs to take on General Manager duties on a full time basis. Matt Hughes will take over as the Head Coach. This move comes only a week or so after Ferster was named the Head Coach for Team Canada West heading into this year's World Junior A Challenge. Even if the move had nothing to do with Ferster's appointment to Team Canada it certainly helps Salmon Arm to have some consistency behind the bench instead of seeing their coach take off for a few weeks in the middle of the season. This move also frees Ferster up to work full time on player moves and recruitment. I know from watching Jim Ingram how hard the dual role guys work. If a team can afford to pay two people to do the jobs I would think that would certainly be an advantage. Of course if Hughes doesn't have the kind of record the Silverbacks expect by say Christmas the fact that Ferster will still be around and available could lead to quick speculation about his future.

...Those two moves leave us with some significant changes to the Interior Conference coaching ranks. There are new Head Coaches in Quesnel, Williams Lake, Merritt, Westside and Salmon Arm. That could certainly shake things up for next season. Merritt has also hired some new assistants and you should check out Brian's Making Cents blog for more on those moves.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Vote for Kaslo!

I'll have something on the banquet later, but for now I wanted to ask for your help in bringing TSN and $25,000 dollars to Kaslo. They're competing with Williams Lake today in an internet vote for the TSN Kraft Celebration Tour. Click here to vote now and vote often for Kaslo. A win would mean the cash prize for their logger sports grounds and a broadcast of TSN Sportscentre from Kaslo. You have until 9am pacific tomorrow to vote.

I also wanted to welcome a new addition to the Smoke Eaters family... Alexander Gordon. Congratulations! Maybe we'll see him on the Trail blue line in 16 years or so.

EDIT: Kaslo won! TSN comes to town on August 22nd.

Friday, July 10, 2009

McCarthy to Anaheim

On the day of the Home of Champions Alumni Banquet it's nice to have some good news to report on a Smokies alumni.

Trail native and former Trail Smoke Eater Steve McCarthy is headed back to the NHL. After a year in Russia's KHL, McCarthy has signed a one year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. No word on the financial terms or whether this is a one or two way deal. Either way it's great to see him back in the NHL. McCarthy has shown tremendous potential in the NHL but has run into some injuries at the worst times. I expect under a great coach like Randy Carlyle with an organization like Anaheim that seems to breed defencemen he'll have a terrific opportunity to grow.

McCarthy set Trail Smoke Eaters records for goals, assists and points by a defenceman in the 1996-97 BCHL season. He put up 25 goals, 52 assists and 77 points. He did all that as a rookie playing against men. McCarthy was drafted by Chicago in the first round of the 1999 NHL entry draft. His best pro season was probably 06-07 when he had 16 points in 46 games. His best run as a pro was when he was first traded to Atlanta from Vancouver in 05-06 and scored 10 points in 16 games.

McCarthy has yet to play a playoff game in the NHL. If he can stick with Anaheim I suspect that will change next season.

Last Minute Tickets

Anyone interested in attending the Home of Champions Alumni Banquet tonight has until noon today to get last minute tickets at Re-Max All Pro Realty in Trail. You'll regret not coming as we've got some amazing story tellers in Tom McVie, Ray Ferraro, Cesare Maniago and Bobby Kromm headlining the event. Hope to see you all there so we can raise some big money for the ALS Society in Gene Lenardon's name and for the BCHL club.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tom McVie Interview

Trail legend Tom McVie is making his way back home on Friday for the 5th Annual Home of Champions Trail Smoke Eaters Alumni Banquet and Golf. Details are available at McVie is not only a legendary former player and coach (read about his history in the game here) but also known as a legendary story teller. You can be sure that he'll have lots to say on Friday. If you haven't signed up for this great fundraiser for the Smokies and the ALS society do it while there's still time! I had the pleasure of being able to chat with Mr. McVie on Mountain FM's Overtime. Between him, Ray Ferraro, Cesare Maniago and Bobby Kromm I'll just turn the mic over to them and let the pros handle things!

Tom McVie

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

OJHL Showcase Idea Worth Stealing

I used to work for Bayshore Broadcasting in Ontario so the other day when looking through their website I noticed an article on Collingwood hosting the OJHL NCAA Showcase Weekend. 15 OJHL teams will be coming to Collingwood in January to play 2 games each in front of a ton of college and pro scouts. That way the players will be in mid-season form and playing in their usual environment.

I think it's a fantastic idea.

I know the BCHL and AJHL are putting together a prospects game that will be a terrific way to showcase the top unsigned talent in the league. That being said, shouldn't the league be doing everything it can to showcase every available player? Post-BCHL opportunities don't exist for just the top talent on each team. However, sometimes it's harder for certain players to get seen or get noticed unless a scout is specifically coming out to look at them.

Why can't the BCHL put on say two showcase events like this every year? One for the coast and one for the interior. I'm not sure about putting them on the weekend though. I don't think any team wants to give up potential home games in one weekend so perhaps instead it's something that runs for three days in the middle of the week.

The other key for me would be that the league should extend their regular season schedule by two games and count these games as a part of that schedule. That way the showcase isn't' just an exhibition. They're games that count and teams will be giving everything they have to win.

Sometimes prospects games or all star type games can turn into too much of an individual showcase. It also doesn't put players in their familiar setting where they are playing with established teammates in an established system. That's the best way to showcase a player. This way every single player in the BCHL could get exposure to what I would think would be a good number of scouts. Especially if they knew they could see that many players in one spot.

You could try to put all 17 BCHL teams in one city over 4 days instead, but I think it's better to split things up and limit every one's travel. The two events would also give everyone an opportunity to get together in the same place and build on that BCHL family. I think it would be a blast. I'm already thinking about how difficult it would be to get a word in if all of our broadcasters got together for a drink in the same place.

What do you think? To me it's a no brainer and an opportunity the league should consider as soon as possible.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Murtagh, Dyck and Ingram Talk

(Murtagh stops Justin Brown - Photo Randy Emery)

After the two trades that brought Devon Murtagh and Darnell Dyck to Trail I had the chance to catch up with the two new Smokies and Coach Ingram to discuss the moves on Mountain FM's Overtime. As always you heard it first if you listened to the show weeknights from 6pm to 10pm on Mountain FM.

Devon Murtagh

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Darnell Dyck

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Jim Ingram on the trades

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Don't forget to get your tickets for the banquet on Friday. Tom McVie, Ray Ferraro, Cesare Maniago and Bobby Kromm headline what should be a terrific time. We're raising money for the club and for ALS research as well. Get your tickets at Re-Max All Pro Realty in Trail.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Articles on Hill

After Former Smoke Eater Ryan Hill committed to North Dakota yesterday a bunch of articles popped up around the internet. Here's a couple of them:

“I was kind of a late-bloomer,” he said. “I started to mature a little later on and started to put it all together last year.

“I’m a stay-at-home defenseman. I’m not going to put up a lot of points, but I’m going to bring it every night.”

"We're ecstatic," said head coach Kevin Hartzell. "Ryan paid his dues more then
most and we're excited he found a great home."

Congrats again to Ryan on what is a terrific achievement. Sometimes defensive defencemen get overlooked because they don't have flashy numbers. I'm glad to see it didn't happen this time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ferraros Talk Draft and Banquet

I have a ton of audio to post that might be of interest. I'm trying to decide whether to spread it out or just do it all in one big swoop. Stay tuned for that. Just have to let my radio audience get all of it first. You can live stream Mountain FM now by the way. Overtime is every night from 6pm to 10pm.

On Monday I had the chance to talk to both Ray and Landon Ferraro on their experience at the NHL draft. Check out Ray's article on the experience. I also talked to Ray about him coming to the Smokies Alumni Golf Tournament and Banquet. Ferraro will be there along with Tom McVie, Cesare Maniago and Bobby Kromm. I'm really looking forward to another night of legends on July 10th. Get your tickets for that and the July 11th golf tournament at Re-Max All Pro Realty in Trail. We're raising money for ALS research and the Smokies.

Landon Ferraro

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Ray Ferraro

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Landon was born in Trail by the way. Obviously when your dad is an NHL player you move around quite a lot, but he is proud to be from our area. I also want to congratulate Castlegar's Evan Bloodoff (brother of former Smoke Eater Lucas) who was drafted in the sixth round by Phoenix. There were also several BCHL players drafted this year who deserve a lot of credit for the work they put in to get to this point.

Tune in to Overtime tonight for our interview with new Colorado video and development coach Adam Deadmarsh. More later.

Hill to North Dakota

(Ryan Hill as a Smoke Eater)

Great news to report today that former Smokies and Vees defenceman Ryan Hill is headed to North Dakota next season. I know it had always been Ryan's goal to get into a good NCAA Division 1 program and I'm really glad that he's made it happen. North Dakota is one of the best. I just talked to Ryan today and I know he's hoping that maybe he'll meet former Smokies teammate Grant Rollheiser and BU in the Frozen Four next season.

Congrats Ryan!